Judge criticises court staff member after juror's note reveals conversation

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The judge in the trial of an Army sergeant accused of attempting to murder his wife by tampering with her parachute has criticised a member of court staff for telling jurors "in France he would be guilty until proven innocent".

The high-profile case against Emile Cilliers, of the Royal Army Physical Training Corps, at Winchester Crown Court was delayed for several hours while the High Court judge, Mr Justice Sweeney, and lawyers discussed the impact of the conversation held between jurors and the "new and untrained" member of court staff.

Mr Justice Sweeney told the jurors that one of them had produced a note describing the incident which happened within the jury's private room on Thursday.

Winchester Crown Court
The trial is taking place at Winchester Crown Court (Chris Ison/PA)

The note stated: "During yesterday's conversation in the jurors' room, questions were asked about whether the defendant was in custody during the build up to the trial.

"The court staff member stated that he was in fact on bail but not allowed to visit Wiltshire except to visit his solicitor.

"Questions were then asked as to his employment and it was established he was still employed."

The note went on to say that a juror suggested that Cilliers might have been "inconvenienced", to which the court worker appeared "shocked" and replied: "If he was tried in France he would be guilty until proven innocent."

The note continued: "As a jury I feel we are taking this extremely seriously but was personally shocked that a court member would make such a simple mistake."

The judge told the jury made up of nine women and three men: "It was wrong of the member of staff, who is new and untrained, to speak to you about the case. It shouldn't have happened and will not happen again.

"You must also make sure from your end that it doesn't ever again."

Mr Justice Sweeney advised the jurors to ensure they did not discuss the trial with anyone else and only as a group of jurors.

Cilliers faces two charges of attempting to murder his former Army officer wife Victoria Cilliers, who suffered multiple serious injuries at Netheravon Airfield, on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire, on April 5 2015.

The 37-year-old is also accused of a third charge of damaging a gas valve at their home a few days earlier in the second allegation that he attempted to kill his 40-year-old wife.

He denies all three charges.